The Girls with No Names by Serena Burdick

Years ago I watched a movie on a flight to Paris. It was “The Magdalene Sisters” and it was about three girls who lived and worked in a laundry run by nuns in Ireland. It was absolutely terrifying and horrific and based on the real Magdalene laundries of the mid-1900’s. In The Girls with No Names, the main character, Effie, gets herself put into one of these places as she seeks to find her sister who has run away. Effie also has a heart condition, which makes her situation all the worse. This story takes place in New York City around 1910, and apparently there really were Magdalene-type laundries here at that time.

All in all it was a heart-breaking read that told the sad story of a marriage gone wrong, a family that was destroyed, and the lasting effect of betrayal. But I couldn’t put it down until the last fulfilling page.

Thank you for my review copy through Net Galley, Harlequin Books!

Here’s the overview:



A beautiful tale of hope, courage, and sisterhood—inspired by the real House of Mercy and the girls confined there for daring to break the rules.

Growing up in New York City in the 1910s, Luella and Effie Tildon realize that even as wealthy young women, their freedoms come with limits. But when the sisters discover a shocking secret about their father, Luella, the brazen elder sister, becomes emboldened to do as she pleases. Her rebellion comes with consequences, and one morning Luella is mysteriously gone.

Effie suspects her father has sent Luella to the House of Mercy and hatches a plan to get herself committed to save her sister. But she made a miscalculation, and with no one to believe her story, Effie’s own escape seems impossible—unless she can trust an enigmatic girl named Mable. As their fates entwine, Mable and Effie must rely on their tenuous friendship to survive.

Home for Unwanted Girls meets The Dollhouse in this atmospheric, heartwarming story that explores not only the historical House of Mercy, but the lives—and secrets—of the girls who stayed there.

“Burdick has spun a cautionary tale of struggle and survival, love and family — and above all, the strength of the heart, no matter how broken.” — New York Times Book Review

“Burdick reveals the perils of being a woman in 1913 and exposes the truths of their varying social circles.” — Chicago Tribune

Saturday Snapshot: NYC!

So last week we dropped the kids off at summer camp and went to NYC for a few days. As always, we love the Big Apple and had a great time!

Here are a few pictures from Central Park and the Met’s fashion exhibit. I will post more pictures next week.

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda at See her site for full participation details.

Saturday Snapshot: A Few from NYC

As you know, we LOVE NYC. It was particularly packed there this holiday season. Here are a few shots from some of our visits.

Here is St. Patrick’s – finally done with being “in restauro”. It looks fabulous. They were having a caroling singalong while we were there. Of course I embarrassed my children by joining in.

Also below is the tree from Rockefeller Center.


Above are a few shots — the one on the left was the view from the Freedom Tower (basically there was no view that day!). The other three were from Madame Tussaud’s. The lines were horrific but it was fun.

We hope you had a nice holiday season.

Wishing everyone the best for 2016!

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda at

See her site for participation details.

Review: WE ARE NOT OURSELVES by Matthew Thomas

I had heard some chatter about this book at BEA this spring, and I was excited to see it come up on Net Galley. It was heralded as “a multi-generational story of an Irish immigrant family in New York City”. Honestly, I found that to be a bit of a misnomer. WE ARE NOT OURSELVES follows Eileen Tumulty as she grows up in post WWII Queens. Eileen is Irish, but this novel is more a story of a life lived rather than a multi-generational overview of several lives.

Please note that the following contains SPOILERS!

Eileen’s life is portrayed from her childhood and adolescence with alcoholic parents to her marriage to introverted scientist Edward, through motherhood to a son (Connell). Throughout, Eileen was not a character with whom I felt any sort of affinity. No matter what life threw her way she was malcontent. She pushed pushed pushed Ed to be bigger, make more money, get more prestige, buy a new house, a new car, a mink coat. She pushed Connell to be the top of his class. I had at one point thought, “Geez, Eileen, be thankful for what you have and stop being so unhappy about everything.” Then tragedy strikes when Ed is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. His decline and disease is portrayed so realistically and touchingly that at times it brought tears to my eyes. And this was when I finally felt a connection to Eileen, as she became a much better person when dealing with this terrible crisis and loss than she was when everything was fine. As for Connell, until the epilogue I found him to be incredibly self-centered and selfish. Eileen wasn’t disappointed in him, but I was.

If I had to criticize something in this novel, which is acclaimed far and wide, I’d say I thought it was about 150 pages too long. I just didn’t think it needed to be 600+ pages. I also felt until near the end that the whole thing could have been summed up as “life is hard and then you die”; but the ending left me feeling a little more upbeat. Thomas is a beautiful writer.

I would love to hear from others what their experience with this novel was like.

Review: “Fever” by Mary Beth Keane

Through Net Galley I received an ARC of “Fever”, the biography of “Typhoid Mary” by Mary Beth Keane. I had heard of Typhoid Mary, but didn’t know her true story. This novel, appropriate for YA or adults, gave an interesting and sensitive account of Mary Mallon’s life and experience as a healthy carrier of typhoid in New York in the early 1900’s.

Mary Mallon came to America from Ireland and worked her way from being a laundress to being a cook. She loved cooking and had a talent for it. At times she cooked for wealthy and prestigious families in New York and New England, but death followed Mary and she was accused of being a healthy carrier of typhoid fever. “Fever” follows Mary’s journey from New York to her confinement on North Brother Island in New York. Mary fights for her life back and her job and reputation. A large part of the story is Mary’s relationship with her significant other, Alfred, with whom she had lived for over twenty years before she was taken away.

I really enjoyed reading this historical biography. Turn of the century New York comes alive as Keane creates a compelling and sympathetic protagonist  in Mary Mallon.

Review: “One Good Deed” by Erin McHugh (releasing 9.1.12)

I recently downloaded “One Good Deed: 365 Days of Trying to Be Just a Little Bit Better” by Erin McHugh through Net Galley. This book, which stemmed from Erin’s “good deed blog”, chronicles her attempt to do one good deed each day for a year. I found it a fun, positive read: often light-hearted, sometimes heart-tugging.

Erin McHugh is the type of writer that you feel is your friend after you’ve read her. She is a New Yorker, an author, a bookseller, a former Catholic, a gay rights activist, and has a large host of family and friends whom she writes about. Following Erin through her days made me feel that I knew her. You could sense her passion for helping others, her love of books, her devotion to her family, and her true New Yorker spirit. I just loved to pick up this book every day or so and read a few entries. Erin was making her world a little bit better, and it was inspiring!

Thank you, Net Galley and Abrams Image, for my copy!

Review of the latest Gaslight Mystery – “Murder on Fifth Avenue” by Victoria Thompson

I love, love, love this historical cozy mystery series, set in New York at the turn of the century. Sarah Brandt, midwife and daughter of a wealthy family, pairs with Irish cop Frank Malloy to solve murders and mysteries in the city. Thompson pays great attention to historical details and her books are really a delight to read.

In this installment (apparently number 14 in the series – I’ve read them all but lost track), Sarah’s father, the rather pompous Felix Decker, has called upon Malloy and Sarah to investigate the mysterious death of a friend from his club. It appeared that victim had been stabbed by a small sharp object, didn’t realize he had a mortal wound, and was going about his business until he died in his chair. The victim, Chilton Devries, was a wealthy businessman but truly a horrible and abusive man, and there are no shortage of suspects. Sarah and Frank must work together to figure out who had the means and motive, and then bring the killer to justice (even though most folks were relieved by Devries’ death).

I love this series, and while I loved this installment, I felt it took a good fifty pages to “get going”. There was a lot of time devoted to Mr. Decker asking Frank, and Sarah, and even Sarah’s mother to help out, and then the subsequent conversations between the aforementioned individuals. I also missed the “personal” piece that often figures in this book: Sarah and her daughter, Sarah and Maeve, and – most importantly – Sarah and Frank! I also didn’t like that near the end, the murder weapon was revealed to be a different murder weapon than previously thought. However, all in all, it was another enjoyable read in the series!

I got mine at the library.

Quick Review: City of Dreams by William Martin

If you read my blog, you know I love William Martin’s historical mysteries, following an item throughout the years from past to present, while in alternate chapters modern day antique expert, Peter Fallon, and his girlfriend, Evangeline, risk life and limb searching for said object as well. This novel came out in the spring, but I just recently purchased it for my Kindle (after a recommendation from my brother-in-law).

In this installment, Peter and Evangeline are seeking some “New Emission Bonds” from the Revolutionary War – issued by Alexander Hamilton and with compounded interest worth millions and millions of dollars. Of course, others are racing against time to find the bonds as well (this time, the Russian mob), and Peter and Evangeline need to separate fact from fiction and puzzle out the clues to figure out just where the bonds are. Then it becomes a race to see who can get to them first.

As always, I love these novels! I enjoy the jumping back and forth from past to present, but particularly enjoy the historical fiction piece.

Fans of Martin will undoubtedly enjoy his latest novel, and the added bonus of how it ties into the issues our current government is having with controlling debt.

YA Book Review: The Storyteller by Patricia Reilly Giff

Patricia Reilly Giff is one of those children’s authors who has written numerous titles and seems like an old friend. When we were purchasing books at the Scholastic Warehouse sale for our school library birthday book program, I came across “Storyteller”. I wasn’t aware of too many YA titles by Ms. Giff, so I took it home to read. This novel  tells the story of two Elizabeths – one who lives now and her ancestor “Zee” who lived during the Revolutionary War. When modern-day Elizabeth goes to stay with her aunt in New York state one summer, she is drawn to an old drawing of the first Elizabeth and becomes focused on learning her story. The two girls’ stories are juxtaposed, and readers move in time from present to past.

I enjoyed reading this novel and finished it in one evening. I did find the harsh realities of war at times disturbing – Zee is badly burned in a fire and her home destroyed and her mother murdered (there is a somewhat sinister passage where the mother is surrounded by a group of men who are destroying their home while she yells at her daughter to run away; later a family friend reports to Zee that her mother is dead). I wasn’t at all familiar with the Battle of Oriskany, which occurs  in this novel, too (where a group of Patriots are ambushed and slaughtered while travelling through a gorge). For these reasons, I think this novel is best suited for middle schoolers. Using this in a classroom where you could also study daily life during the Revolution and talk about the events in this book would be ideal.

Historical period aside, young readers will enjoy the two Elizabeths’ stories as both girls learn to deal with changes in their life and recognize their gifts as storytellers. I look forward to more YA titles from Ms. Giff!